Reporters Without Borders condemns the beating which two Japanese reporters received from Chinese police
yesterday. The press freedom organisation also deplores the government’s decision to break its promise to allow the foreign news media to report freely in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
"These latest incidents are indicative of the hostility displayed by many members of the Chinese security forces, an hostility fueled in recent months by official campaigns against the foreign media," Reporters Without Borders said. "The authorities have apologized for the beating but they must also punish those responsible."
The organisation added: "We fear that this inability to tolerate foreign reporters will result in more incidents, for which the IOC will share the blame because it took so long to request guarantees for the safety of the media."
Masami Kawakita, a photographer with the daily Chunichi Shimbun, and Shinji Katsuta, a reporter with Nippon Television Network, were arrested by paramilitary police in Kashgar, in the northwestern province of Xinjiang, and were taken to an official hotel, where they were beaten and their equipment was broken. One of the journalists was pinned to the ground while a policeman squeezed his head under his boot. They were released two hours later with minor injuries.
Sixteen police officers were killed earlier yesterday in Kashgar in an attack with a explosives which the authorities blamed on a radical Uyghur group.
The two journalists’ employers condemn the beatings, while the Japanese government said it would make an official protest. The Xinhua government news agency said the authorities had apologized.
The Beijing municipal government meanwhile announced today that the foreign news media will have to apply 24 hours in advance in order to carry out interviews on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. This is a regrettable step backwards that violates both the January 2007 rules lifting reporting restrictions on the foreign media, and the promises made by the organisers of the Beijing games that the foreign media would be able to broadcast live from the square.
The new restriction was announced in the form of a notice posted on the Beijing government website (http://www.ebeijing.gov.cn/BeijingInfo/NewsUpdate/BeijingNews/t987900.htm) saying: "To maintain a good order of reporting activities at the square, Chinese and foreign journalists are advised to make telephone appointments with the Administration Committee of Tiananmen Area."
Police yesterday dispersed a group of Beijing families near the square when they tried to talk to foreign journalists about the inadequate compensation they had received after being evicted from their homes to make way for Olympic installations.